Royal Caribbean Offers Omicron Update, Details Infection Rates

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Royal Caribbean (RCL) provided an update to company shareholders on Thursday morning to give investors a heads up on how the Omicron variant is impacting the corporation.

freedom of the seas cococay
Freedom of the Seas docked at Perfect Day at CocoCay (Photo courtesy of Royal Caribbean)

The company has disclosed that since cruising resumed, Royal Caribbean Group — which is comprised of the Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises, and Silversea fleets — has carried over 1.1 million cruisers successfully.

Out of that 1,745 people have tested positive — meaning their collective ships have a positivity rate of 0.02%.

Breaking it down even further, 41 of those 1,745 of those who tested positive had to be admitted to the hospital — that’s a hospitalization rate of 2.3% of positive cases or .003% of 1.1 million guests.

“Omicron is having a big short-term impact on everyone, but many observers see this as a major step towards COVID-19 becoming endemic rather than epidemic,” said Richard Fain, outgoing Chairman & CEO.

MORE: Royal Caribbean’s Fain announces retirement

While COVID-19 numbers are on the rise across the country, cruise lines have once again found themselves in the spotlight. Earlier this week, Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal suggested in a tweet that the industry should be shut down again.

In response, many in the Twitterverse pointed out the irony of Blumenthal’s stance given that his state currently has a 17.8% daily infection rate.

“We Welcome That Scrutiny”

“We don’t like to see even one case, but our experience is a fraction of the comparable statistics of virtually any other comparable location or industry,” said Fain.

“Few businesses are subject to such intense scrutiny, regulation, and disclosure requirements by so many authorities, and we welcome that scrutiny because of our commitment to safety.”

As has long been true, cruise ships are required to report incidents of various illnesses to the CDC, something that is not true of their land-based competitors.

To that point, the CDC debuted a color chart during the cruise industry restart to show what ships have had positive cases onboard.

The current CDC threshold to change a ship from green (indicating there are no issues on board) to yellow (which leads to further investigation) is one crew member or seven guests cases per 6,500 passengers. As of Friday morning, there are dozens of cruise ships color-coded yellow.

There is, however, no such requirement or chart for hotels, restaurants or theme parks.

Adding fuel to the public perception regarding the cruise industry is mainstream media reporting which focuses on the number of ships under investigation while failing to provide details on the percentage of those on board who are actually impacted.

This is, however, also partially due to the fact that cruise lines have proven reticent to provide information regarding how many passengers test positive.

In several cases, even those traveling on ships with positive cases on board were unaware of the situation until after they had disembarked and seen news reports or social media references.

Meanwhile, cruise lines continue to update their health and safety protocols as the science regarding COVID and its variants develop.

Several cruise lines — including Royal Caribbean — tightened their mask-related policies to require that guests wear face coverings indoors unless “actively” eating or drinking.

Knowing that many passengers may be wary of cruising in the current environment, Royal Caribbean also relaxed its cancellation policy, allowing guests to reschedule or cancel without paying fees on sailings through January 17, 2021.

“We are constantly learning and adjusting,” Fain concluded, adding that doing so “should enable us to produce a strong transitional year in 2022 and a very strong 2023.”

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